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MDA eyes layoffs, says budget's Radarsat funding not enough

Dan Friedmann, President and Chief Executive Officer of MDA,13800 Commerce Parkway in Richmond, B.C., in front of an artist rendition of the RADARSAT constellation for the Canadian government.

LAURA LEYSHON FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL/laura leyshon The Globe and Mail

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. said Friday it's laying off workers after a preliminary assessment of the federal budget suggests it doesn't include the money needed for the Radarsat Constellation Mission as envisioned.

MDA, which has developed space and satellite technology for many missions including the robot arm used on the International Space Station, said it was "uncertain on the way forward on Phase D of RCM and expects to work with its customer to seek clarification over the coming weeks."

The Vancouver-area company was not specific as to how many jobs it was cutting, but said "given the level of uncertainty, the company is accelerating its steps to restructure its work force related to this event."

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Jean-Pierre Arseneault, a spokesman for the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal, said the government agency is still analyzing the federal budget.

"I think it's pretty premature at this time to comment on the budget and the RCM project," he told The Canadian Press on Friday.

Mr. Arseneault said the Radarsat Constellation mission hasn't been halted because of a lack of funds in the budget.

"We're still working on that project and it's still ongoing," he added.

The Radarsat Constellation Mission is a three-satellite program that began in 2005. According to the space agency website, satellites are expected to be launched in 2014 and 2015.

The satellites would be used for maritime surveillance, disaster management and monitoring of environmental change.

MDA's main businesses include specialized data, surveillance and intelligence, communication systems and advanced technology.

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Ottawa blocked an attempt by MDA to try to sell its space division to American firm Alliant Techsystems Inc. in 2008, citing national security issues.

It was the first time any federal government rejected a foreign takeover outright under the act. The only other time the act has been used to scuttle a major foreign takeover was when BHP Billiton attempted a hostile takeover of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan in 2010.

Last year, the company earned a profit of $129.6-million or $3.31 per share on $761.1-million in revenue. That compared with a profit of $59.5-million or $1.45 per share on $688-million in revenue in 2010.

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